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The stories of unsung heroes in the music world seem endless. I recently ran across one more.
Italian pianist Sergio Fiorentino (1927-1998) was a great classical pianist. His career started strong in the early 1950’s until a plane crash in 1954 disabled him for some time.
By the late 1950’s he began to re-establish himself and made several recordings for some small British labels. But by 1974 he gave up a concert career and turned to teaching. After all, the shameless self-promotion required for a concert and recording career wasn’t much to his liking.
However, after he retired from teaching in 1993 a German record collector and long-time fan of his helped him make a comeback. Slowly his concert and recording career was relaunched to great critical acclaim. Big plans were in the offing.
Sadly, in August of 1998 at the age of 70 Sergio Fiorentino died suddenly at his home in Naples. Thankfully, he made several recordings during this final period and there are several videos (including some interesting interview segments done in 1994) on You Tube. In one of these segments he even plays some very interesting Art Tatum-like jazz when he discusses Fats Waller. There is also a very intriguing 50 minute interview where he discusses Rachmaninoff. Much of his music, including his early recordings can also be sampled at You Tube.
If I were stranded on a desert island today the music that would top my list currently for permanent listening would be Arthur Rubinstein’s album which includes Chopin’s four Ballades and four Scherzos and Abbey Simon’s “Ravel, Complete Music for Solo Piano.”
I could spend months (if not years) content with just this music.
Continuing on the theme of the last post…
Heinrich Neuhaus typifies the sort of musician I admire most.
He faced adversity and disappointments with great resilience and tenacity.
In my opinion, the most important mission is to be productive despite setbacks because, in the end, effort and intention count for everything.
I very much like the modest self appraisal Heinrich Neuhaus gave himself:
“As a pianist-fair,
As a musician-good,
As an artist- excellent,
As a human- being-inclined to good.”
Heinrich Neuhaus (1888-1964) is a legendary pianist and pedagogue in Russia. Living under Stalin in many ways limited his reputation in the West. He even spent time in prison during World War Two for the crime of having a Germanic last name even though he was a born Russian citizen.
The documentary called “Master Heinrich” tells his story.
His son Stanislav Neuhaus (1927-1980) was also a great pianist and teacher. His career was also hindered by the Soviet regime. He likely would have won the Chopin Prize in 1949 but in the end was not allowed to make the trip to Warsaw for political reasons. Stanislav, like his father, is little known in the West. He died tragically young and his career disappointments most likely contributed to his early demise.
Stanislav Neuhaus Documentary
The reason these stories appeal to me is my longstanding sympathy for the tenacity and nobility exhibited by unsung artists. Also, having Polish heritage as I do I am naturally drawn to Slavic music (the Neuhaus family has Polish-Russian roots). In fact the Neuhaus pianistic tradition is now in its third generation as Stanislav’s son Stanislav Bunin is also a concert pianist.
These documentary films do have English subtitles that can be activated by clicking on the icon (cc) beneath frame on right. The icon is on upper right of picture on tablet or mobile devices.